View Full Version : Chiefs Why we're all full of shit...at least partially.

Hammock Parties
01-05-2009, 07:39 PM
Good read.


A GM's Life

Scott Pioli and Marty Schottenheimer are flying around the country, entertaining offers to resurrect down-and-out franchises. Bill Cowher met with the Jets but didn't like what he heard; soon, Mike Shanahan will hear the same pitch. Names like Eric DeCosta and Chris Polian keep popping up on the news wires as the Chiefs and Browns search for new top executives. Some of the names are familiar, some new. We learn the names, review the resumes, then scratch our heads about the men who will soon be among the most powerful people in the football universe.

The casual fan has no idea what an NFL general manager does. Listen to talk radio and you'll get the impression that the GM spends his days with his feet on his desk, chomping a cigar butt and barking out orders like Mister Spacely or J. Jonah Jameson. "Get the Patriots on the phone and offer a No. 1 pick for Matt Cassel! Offer our prima donna receiver eight mil, and tell him to like it or lump it! Tell the head coach he's fired, and get me Jim Schwartz on line two!"

Of course, it's not really like that. But even veteran sportswriters have only a cloudy idea of what the GM does. When the season ends (as it just did for 20 teams), we lump credit or blame on the GM for personnel decisions, then offer the kind of quick "smash or trash" appraisal best reserved for new songs on a Top 40 station. Jeff Ireland: Smash! Phil Savage: Trash! Ted Thompson switched categories in the course of one season. These executives don't go from smart to stupid in a few months, so there's obviously more to a GM's job than drafting the best players or making the right trades.

Aaron Schatz and I visited NFL Films a few weeks ago. We enjoyed our annual film session with Ron Jaworski and Greg Cosell, but there was a third wise man in our midst this time. Charley Casserly was general manager of the Redskins from 1989-99 and the Texans from 2002-06. He now works for NFL Network, and he broke down film with Jaws and Cosell during our visit. Over lunch, Jaws and Cosell asked Casserly a few questions about the nuts and bolts of general management. Soon, we were treated to a symposium by Casserly on the life of an NFL executive: the schedule, the procedures, and all the things that happen far below the surface of the "Jets sign Favre" headlines.

Casserly wasn't speaking on the record, and I wasn't taking notes (I was eating panini) so I won't use any names or specifics. Even in general terms, the typical regular season week in the life of a general manager sounds fascinating and exhausting:

Monday: Players get injured on Sunday, and the general manager must work on Monday to restock the roster. Often, this process starts on Sunday, just minutes after a player is injured. It's not unusual for a team to sign a street free agent before the final gun on Sunday, assuming that the free agent is on the team's "ready list." More often, though, the coach and GM must discuss needs and available replacements, then the GM and his staff must contact free agents or schedule tryouts.

Once the GM and head coach meet to discuss roster shuffling, it's time for film sessions. Different teams handle Monday film study in different ways, but the GM is usually present for some of the sessions. Many GMs sit in on coaches' sessions, then watch game film independently and conduct their own player evaluations.

The GM and team owner also usually meet on Monday to discuss the current state of the franchise. With 31 other teams also making roster moves, the GM must work quickly to bring in available talent and to stay abreast of league news, making Monday the busiest office day of the week.

Tuesday: Most teams schedule workouts and tryouts on Tuesday. General managers often attend the tryouts, though some teams leave that responsibility to the pro scouts, head coach or even the coordinators. If the coaches are watching tryouts, they aren't reviewing tape or coaching, so the division of duties and responsibilities is tricky.

Teams hold workouts even if they aren't making any personnel changes that week. Each team must have a "ready" list of free agents who can be called upon to step right onto the roster to cover an injury. Regular workouts help the GM stay informed about who is available and in football shape. Players are often signed on the spot after Tuesday workouts, though most of these bottom-of-the-roster acquisitions bring little media fanfare.

Wednesday: Most general managers like to travel and scout college players in the middle of the week. Once the roster has been filled out and last Sunday's game has been dissected, there's little for a GM to do but watch his own team practice. Casserly said that constant communication with the head coach during the week can get redundant; he has his own job to do and needs the freedom to do it. Some general managers stay with the team and handle college scouting via tape and phone calls, but most hit the road for a day or two.

By traveling to colleges and monitoring practices, a GM can see how a prospect handles coaching and prepares for games. The GM can also talk to coaches, strength coordinators, and other assistants to learn more about the prospect. It's the kind of inside information you cannot get on the phone: Thirty minutes on the practice field can yield several candid discussions that would take hours to organize by voicemail.

Thursday: If the GM is still on the road, communication and delegation of responsibility is crucial. He must have a staff in place that can handle minor issues and inform him of major ones. The team's scouting directors -- college and pro -- must be able to do their jobs efficiently without constant oversight. In short, everybody has to be following the same game plan.

Scouting is a complex procedure that involves a great deal of logistical planning. Scouts must be assigned to schools and regions, and their visits must be scheduled so that they don't step on each other's toes and their meetings to major schools/prospects are properly spaced. Casserly liked his scouts to use one-page scouting reports that were typically due on a weekly basis. Each scouting report ranks the prospect on five key traits, selected by the coaching staff for each position. Different coaches have different desired traits -- one staff might emphasize wide receiver blocking, another might single out a tackle's quickness on the second level -- so it's important that scouts know what the coaches want. It's also important for coaches to understand what's available: the defensive line coach may only want 280-plus-pound linemen with 4.6 speed, so the scouting department may have to offer the reality check that no such player will ever be available in the second round.

Usually, the director of college scouting and his staff handles the day-to-day scheduling and report processing for scouts. The GM must make sure that the process is running smoothly, and that there is no disconnect between the scouting department and the coaching staff. He often handles all of this management while on the road, which is why delegation and communication are so important. If different departments are pursuing different goals, the team won't be able to fill future needs, and the stage is set for a draft day disaster.

Friday: The GM rejoins the team, whether at headquarters or on the road. It's time for the coach and GM to review the week's events. Is such 'n' such healthy enough for Sunday? Did the guy we signed on Tuesday have a good practice week? The GM usually meets with the coordinators informally on Friday to discuss the general game plan. Once he's met with the staff, the GM can get caught up with the scouting directors and handle other business.

Saturday: Casserly stressed time management as a crucial part of a general manager's job. There's nothing worse for a GM than to spend a day in a hotel room when he should be in his office or at a college campus. Depending on the location, a good GM can attend two or three major college football games on Saturday and still be back with his team by Sunday. Sometimes, that means catching a Friday afternoon flight, but most NFL cities are within driving distance of several major colleges. From Washington, D.C., for example, Casserly was able to drive to University of Maryland or University of Virginia with little difficulty, and both Virginia Tech and the Meadowlands, among other venues, were within striking distance. In December, the GM can travel to bowl games or use Saturdays for additional film work.

Sunday: Game day. The process starts all over again: The team wins or loses, players get hurt, and the roster needs restocking.

Hammock Parties
01-05-2009, 07:40 PM
Now the question is...does this description fit Carl's weekly process over the last 20 years?

01-05-2009, 07:53 PM
I can't see Carl working that hard. I can see him traveling, taking college coaches and staff out to lunch, or doing whatever work needs to be done by phone. Of course, I only came in on the last 4 years.

01-05-2009, 07:58 PM
Thisis the schedule for successful GM's

01-05-2009, 08:02 PM
Now the question is...does this description fit Carl's weekly process...

Not our problem anymore...:)

01-05-2009, 08:30 PM
If anything, Rufus Dawe....Carl was too busy doing the roles of CEO/President to do things like be present during tryouts and hit the road looking for prospects.

01-05-2009, 08:31 PM
Now the question is...does this description fit Carl's weekly process over the last 20 years?

I don't see hobnobbing at Capital Grille anywhere in the article so I'd say no.

01-05-2009, 08:44 PM
Thanks for posting this. I have wondered exactly what a GM does.

01-05-2009, 08:46 PM
I don't see hobnobbing at Capital Grille anywhere in the article so I'd say no.

He was playing the role of President when he was doing that.

Actually, speaking of which, Carl was playing a dual role, right? What are the duties of the president? Did that conflict with his role as GM?

01-05-2009, 08:49 PM
Now the question is...does this description fit Carl's weekly process over the last 20 years?

Holy crap man. You have THE worst avatar/sig combo I have ever seen on here.